Here we are at the end and beginning of the Celtic year. The harvest is finished and we prepare ourselves for the long sleep of Winter. Time to put on more clothing, bring out hats and scarves, sturdy footwear and raincoats. Fire up the heating (gas, electricity, or solid fuel fires) feel the rain and gales that stir heaps of fallen leaves and drive us indoors for most of our waking hours. The Sun is low in the sky and paints the clouds crimson by late afternoon, shadows are longer, and the light seems pale compared to the full brightness of Summer.

Samhain is the festival most associated with Witchcraft and divination in the popular imagination, mostly due to the commercialisation of ‘Halloween’ (from ‘All Hallows Eve’, its Christian name). At this time the spirits of the departed were believed to return to Earth as the veil between the worlds of the living and dead is thin. Like most old festivals, nobody knows for certain when it began to be celebrated but so strong is the urge to mark the occasion that it endures. Looking at the images of death so prevalent at this time we feel the ancient pull towards our Ancestors, honouring the hereditary gifts and knowledge they handed down to make us what we are. The past is with us most of all at Samhain, and our fear of Death fades as we recall beloved relatives and friends.

A big bonfire outdoors is perfect for this occasion, with hot drinks and of course a feast. Red wine or cider are wonderful when gently heated with cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg stirred in. These are the ‘mulled’ drinks of old. Cranberry or cherry juice make suitable non-alcoholic versions. Serve up with spiced fruit cakes and ginger parkin. Disguise yourself and fool even those who know you best! Practice divination, tell stories of those gone before, shed a tear, have a laugh, hug each another and dream…

Suitably Pagan songs include Loreena McKennitt’s ‘All Souls Night’, Damh the Bard’s ‘Samhain Eve’ and Lisa Thiel’s ‘Samhain Song’. Join hands and weave a dance in memory.